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Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on Need to Scale up Aid Funding for Pakistan Flooding Victims

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

As Pakistan’s disastrous flooding continued to spread, the new United Nations humanitarian chief said today that she planned to ask donors this Friday to scale up funding for humanitarian assistance to the growing number of victims.

“More people are turning to us for help, and as a world community we need to respond,” Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said at a Headquarters press conference.

She said that approximately 70 per cent of the $460 million in emergency aid initially requested had been received, and that last week she had announced another $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). But that was not enough to provide a lifeline for the 21 million people affected by the torrential monsoon rains that had begun in late July, “leaving one fifth of Pakistan under water”, she added.

Millions of people had already lost everything, she said, adding that hunger, diarrhoea and skin diseases were on the rise. There was a real threat of a health crisis, particularly in Sindh Province in southern Pakistan, where the flood waters were still spreading. “The world needs to understand that this is not just about business as usual,” she said, emphasizing that the United Nations and the humanitarian community could not handle the crisis alone.

“It’s one of the biggest disasters we have ever faced,” she continued. “So we will in future have to look at new ways of working, new ways of funding, broadening our donor base, and in the current context I am going to be asking our current donors to do more.” Moreover, greater efforts were needed to put the floods and the immense human suffering they had caused back in the media spotlight, she added.

Upon assuming her new post, Ms. Amos travelled to Sindh, as well as Nowshera and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, in the north-westto survey the damage and meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister and other government officials, as well as donors and humanitarian workers.

Asked how much the United Nations would ask for during Friday’s funding appeal, Ms. Amos declined to specify a figure, but said it would be substantially more than the original appeal.

Responding to a question as to why the response to the crisis had been slower than those to other recent natural disasters, she rejected the notion of donor fatigue, saying that the Organization had in fact received about the same percentage of the funding requested – 70 per cent - as it had following the earthquake that had devastated Haiti in January. Moreover, Pakistan had received some $400 million in bilateral aid, she said, stressing that the real test would be the next stage of the response and Friday’s appeal.

Concerning areas of the mountainous military-controlled north-western region of Waziristan, which were closed to humanitarian workers, she said the situation was worrisome and issues of security, volatility and access were a daily challenge. The importance of ensuring humanitarian access had been discussed during her visit to Pakistan, and she had spoken to aid workers on the ground about balancing their desire to help victims with the duty of protecting their own.

In response to a question about whether the United Nations was geared up to address the emerging threat of flooding in Manchhar Lake in Sindh, she said the Organization had more workers in the north and must bolster capacity on the ground in the south to prevent the prevalence of cholera, diarrhoea and malnutrition from worsening. Overall, the United Nations would focus on areas where it could best make a difference, she added.

On sustainable solutions to Pakistan’s chronic maternal health-care challenges, which the flooding had exacerbated, the Under-Secretary-General said United Nations agencies were trying to better integrate and coordinate relief and early-recovery efforts. “Next week, the emergency directors of the World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) would meet in Pakistan to survey distribution of water, sanitation, food and good nutrition, as well as health indicators,” she added.

As for the role of the United Nations in other ongoing humanitarian crises, she said that in Gaza, the Organization would continue to push for access for humanitarian aid and to ensure that the world did not forget the human suffering there.

Asked about the decision by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to discontinue publication of its Darfur Humanitarian Profile due to pressure from the Sudanese Government, she said her Office had initially responded by attempting to publish joint assessments with the Government, but since production of data took longer than originally anticipated, it was considering whether to resume issuing data on its own.

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